History and science collide in this odd tribute to 1950s pulp sci-fi.
When Robert, a teenager living in Lawrence, Kan., in the year 2051, is suddenly transported to the year 1923, he meets Red Jones, a senator and virulent protectionist from Kansas. The meeting turns out to be quite fortuitous for the senator, as he misses the train that eventually crashes and kills everybody on board. But Robert is unaware that back in 2051, his uncle, Mallory Carpenter, has devised a time machine (secretly installed in Robert’s camera) for the purpose of going back in time to steal and bury valuable Napoleonic gold coins during Germany’s WWII invasion of France, with the idea of unearthing them in 2051. Carpenter needs Senator Jones alive to pass a tariff bill that will destroy Germany’s economy and catapult Hitler to power, sparking the chain of events leading to Carpenter’s eventual riches. This is only a minor aspect of a confusing and illogical, but occasionally expertly shaped, plot that jumps from 1923 Lawrence to 1945 Alamogordo, N.M., to 1920s London to Germany’s invasion of France in 1940. Throughout, Robert’s consciousness inhabits the bodies of different individuals who go on to contribute to various historical moments (rayon, theme parks and the French Resistance all begin as a result of Robert’s actions), and the author skillfully weaves together the seemingly disparate plot strands. Unfortunately, readers must first wade through a muddled, poorly written beginning section: Homage to pulp sci-fi or not, at times the dialogue may be more preposterous and the prose more amateurish than readers are willing to bear. Still, once Parker finally hits his stride and finds the right satirical note, his imagination and humor shine through.
Uneven, but shows flashes of brilliance.